Paea, Roach receive Piccolo award

743678.png

Paea, Roach receive Piccolo award

When I got to Halas Hall on Tuesday, the first person I saw was Chuck Davidson, veteran cameraman for CBS and a long-time buddy from Platteville days. Chuck was wearing a top from a Brian Piccolo golf outing, and it was from 1994.

That was a quick reminder how long the Piccolo awards have been around and how much theyve meant, created by the Bears in the wake of Brians death from embryonal cell carcinoma in 1970 at age 26.

When Brian died, the cancer was 100 percent fatal. Because of the research and work funded by proceeds from the Piccolo-related endeavors -- 8.1 million since 1971 the cure rate now is more than 70 percent. Now the target of the proceeds and research is breast cancer at Rush Medical Center and the Clearbrook Center in Arlington Heights for the developmentally disabled.

Bears players have voted for one of their own rookies to receive the Piccolo Award since 1971. It was expanded in 1992 to include one veteran winner each year.

So Tuesday celebrated (choice of word intentional) the presentation of the awards for this year: linebacker Nick Roach as the veteran winner, defensive tackle Stephen Paea as the rookie winner.

Hard work, dedication, loyalty and commitment to teammates are the guidelines and the fact that the awards are the result of players voting probably is the best statement about Roach and Paea.

Piccolo was an undrafted free agent coming out of Wake Forest.. So it was maybe even a little more fitting that Roach was this years winner, because Roach was undrafted coming out of Northwestern.

Im just hoping we can be as lucky to have one of those undrafted free agents have the kind of impact on our football team that Brian Piccolo had, coach Lovie Smith said.

For defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, the thing Paea plays it with, and that we look for, is the toughness of mind. Marinelli pointed out that Paea was a second-round draft choice but never complained or pouted while waiting five games before earning a chance on game day.

Paea has seen the movie Brians Song and the thing that he has taken away from it was the caring between roomates Piccolo and Gale Sayers. Paeas selection by his teammates gave him the same feeling, "and thats why were going to win the Super Bowl this year.

The award had a particular poignancy for Roach personally.

The story hit me hard because of a lot of the similarities, Roach said. Piccolo was an undrafted free agent; I was a free agent. Piccolo was 26 when he died; Im 26, Roach said.

And Piccolo died on June 16, which is my birthday.

Roach thanked Smith and the coaches but deadpanned. "The sad thing is that this is my first football trophy so I want to work on that second one for you."

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

For the past two seasons, David Accam was a bright spot on bad Chicago Fire teams.

This season, with more talent on the roster, Accam has blossomed into one of the most dangerous players in the league.

He had a hat trick and an assist in Saturday’s 4-0 win against Orlando. That gives him 10 goals and six assists on the season. Only two other players in Major League Soccer have 16 combined goals and assists, New York City FC's David Villa and teammate Nemanja Nikolic (the leading goal-scorer in the league).

“I thought I could do anything on the pitch today,” Accam said. “I just wanted to enjoy myself and entertain the fans and also help the team win. That’s what we did today, especially after my first goal. I just thought I could get more goals and also help the team win.”

Accam’s big game comes after he sat out the previous two games, which were both played on turf. He wasn’t listed on the injury report, but coach Veljko Paunovic said, “he didn’t recover from the physical issues that he had in the previous game.”

The rest seemed to do Accam some good, but his success in the game (as well as his recent run of eight goals and four assists in his last eight matches) coincides with questions about his future. He was recently rumored to be the target of a Turkish club.

In the past, Accam has spoken about his ambition to play at the highest levels. Typically, that means Europe. General manager Nelson Rodriguez said last month that he expects offers to come in for the 26-year-old because he is a good player in his prime ages.

So is Accam playing like someone trying to earn a new contract? That could be either impressing potential suitors in Europe or boosting his negotiation position with the Fire. Rodriguez has talked about contract negotiations with Accam before, and said those will not resume again until after the season.

“I wanted to be in a team where I would develop as a person and also win trophies, whether here or somewhere (else) I don’t know,” Accam said. “For me, I’m doing really well here and every year if I keep playing well there will be always interest. I know there is a lot of interest because I’m doing well. For me it’s always extra motivation to keep doing well. You don’t know where I will end up, whether here or somewhere else. I’ll just keep playing.”

Accam’s play earned him another call-up to the Ghanaian national team. He will join the team on Sunday for a pair of friendlies in the U.S. The Black Stars will take on Mexico in Houston on June 28 and the U.S. in East Hartford, Conn., on July 1 as the two North American countries prepare for the Gold Cup.

“That’s where I want to be,” Accam said. “I want to be playing for the national team so it’s extra motivation for me to perform well and also to go to the national team.”

Accam has been one of the most productive players in MLS this year, based on goals and assists, and is young enough to draw the attention of plenty of teams. For now, the Fire have him as a key part of the best season the club has had in years.

“I think that he understands very well how to play with the team that we have now and with the teammates that he is surrounded with,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “We just have to work to give David opportunities… Then we expect that performances like that will come even more.”

Wake-up Call: Mark Buehrle goes down in White Sox history

Wake-up Call: Mark Buehrle goes down in White Sox history

Watch Mark Buehrle's jersey retirement speech

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Anthony Rizzo won’t get ‘Wally Pipped’ out of Cubs leadoff spot

How a fan's kind gesture surprised Mark Buehrle on his big day

Fire dominant against Orlando for seventh straight home win

Blackhawks 2017 NHL Draft capsules: Scouting reports and analysis

Ben Zobrist doubtful for Nationals showdown and where things stand with banged-up Cubs

White Sox upset by the call that led to ejections of Todd Frazier, Rick Renteria

Preview: Cubs battle Marlins Sunday on CSN

It sure sounds like Jimmy Butler regrets being labeled as the face of the Bulls franchise